When Americans hear the word “drone” they often think of unmanned war or spy planes flown by the U.S. military, most likely up to no good. However as the technology has become cheaper, many civilian agencies, organizations, and even private citizens are getting in on the trend. A few weeks ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced on 60 Minutes that hoped to have a fleet of drones in the air by 2015 in order to deliver Amazon purchases in less than an hour. Anthony Cumia, the “Anthony” half of Opie & Anthony on Sirius/XM has also documented on the show his love of civilian drones, posting many videos of his flights and even appearing on Fox News to discuss them. During one break, Cumia admitted to letting the drone get away from him—the flights are planned using a computer program, not an RC control—and his drone may have gone a mile high.
Last spring, a drone similar to those used by Cumia and Amazon buzzed the JFK airport, being spotted by an airliner pilot while landing. Since then, the FAA has sought to rewrite the laws for unmanned civilian aircraft that were written in the 1980s. To that end, the FAA announced Monday that six teams in six states would put the flying robots through rigorous testing not only in the hopes that drones can be integrated into U.S. airspace also by 2015, but that the U.S. doesn’t fall woefully behind international competitors.
The unmanned drones are not just for hobbyists like Cumia or package delivery. These aircraft could be used in search-and-rescue—to both locate the injured/stranded and deliver life-saving supplies like water or food—or in law enforcement. In May of 2012, Massimiliano Lega used a drone to find two trucks buried in the Naples countryside, presumably by local Mafioso. Once the FAA’s tests are complete, unmanned aerial aircraft could be the next revolution in American flight.
Amazon has just revealed plans for a drone delivery system that can deliver items to customers in 30 minutes, and CEO Jeff Bezos said that it could realistically take off within the next five years.
The automatic delivery drone known as the octocopter will be guided by a GPS navigation system and will be able to take a package from one of the Amazon fulfillment centers and fly it directly to the customer’s front porch in just 30 minutes. Amazon hopes that they can provide this service to customers within a certain radius of a fulfillment center to improve delivery capabilities.
“It looks like science fiction, but it's real," said Amazon in a statement.
The drone delivery service is being called Prime Air, and early prototypes have already proved successful. The company says that its biggest hurdle will be getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, to allow an unmanned aerial vehicle to do what Amazon needs it to do.
"The FAA is actively working on rules and an approach for unmanned aerial vehicles that will prioritize public safety," said Amazon. "Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards."
Amazon says that the FAA could have the regulations in place by 2015, which would allow them to move forward to the final stages of launching Prime Air. The company believes that one day, drone delivery will be a normal part of life.
"One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today," said Amazon.
Check out the Amazon Prime Air video demonstration below.
A small camera-equipped drone crashed onto a Manhattan sidewalk Monday evening, narrowly missing a financial analyst who gutted the drone and submitted the footage to the local news.
The unmanned aircraft was identified as a Phantom Quadcopter, which should not have been flying through congested pedestrian areas, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Laura Brown.
The video shows the drone taking off from a high rise in Midtown Manhattan, and focuses momentarily on the operator. Then, the drone moves over the city during rush hour, flying 20 to 30 stories above ground.
The drone recorded some of the city’s most iconic buildings, including the Chrysler, MetLife and Grand Central.
The driver, who is clearly inexperienced, slams the drone into several buildings until it finally falls to the ground only feet away from the businessman.
“Someone’s done something very reckless,” the anonymous financial analyst said, “choosing something for their personal enjoyment over any of the consequences.”
When the businessman reported the drone to police, they did nothing.
“I got the sense that they knew that it was something out of the ordinary,” he said, “but didn’t know how to handle it.”
The NYPD is now investigating the incident to see whether reckless endangerment was involved.
While one of the strictest rules on a flight is turning off electronic devices before takeoff and landing, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it plans to relax the ban.
It is expected that they will allow devices like cellphones, tablets and e-readers while the plane is at low altitudes, as well as during takeoff and landings.
They recognize that consumers want freedom to use personal electronics on flights.
"That is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions. At the group's request, the FAA has granted a two-month extension to complete the additional work necessary for the safety assessment. We will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps," they said.
Currently, people are prohibited from using all devices until a plane gets above 10,000 feet. But a recent study shows that one-third of fliers have accidentally left their devices on during a flight.
"As the consumer electronics industry has exploded," the report said, allowing electronics to remain on during low altitude "has become untenable."
While this seems to be good news for those who are strongly attached to their devices, travel expert George Hobica warns it might be disastrous.
"A plane full of passengers screaming can you hear me now over the roar of jet engines will not be pretty," he said.
FAA's final report on the rule won't be complete until the end of September.
New information has been released regarding a tragic 2011 airplane collision in Alaska. According to the surviving pilot, Kevin Earp, he and the other pilot were communicating on different frequencies, so each was unaware the other was nearby before the deadly crash.
Aboard the other plane was private pilot Corey Carlson, 41, his wife Hetty, 39, as well as their two young daughters, Ella, 5, and Adelaide, 3. All four died when their single-engine float plane crashed into Earp’s in 2011.
The information was included in a National Transportation Safety Board report, released this week, which highlighted some confusing and contradictory Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
Carlson and Earp were using two different frequencies to communicate, but both of which were assigned by the FAA to the region—the overlap essentially caused the miscommunication and the crash.
“You know, somebody just didn't have two cups of coffee before they wrote that down,” Anchorage charter pilot Danny Davidson said Thursday. “They're going to cause more deaths if they don't fix it.”
Both pilots were heading for Amber Lake when they collided, but Earp’s plane only sustained minimal damage and he was able to fly back to Anchorage.
After the crash, a group was created by industry and government officials to fix the confusing guidelines for radio frequencies in the region. The group hopes to have significant changes in place within the year.
Passengers at Los Angeles International Airport received a scare on Monday night when multiple flight status displays warned of an emergency and told passengers to evacuate. Officials early Tuesday called the message an accident.
Passengers in the Tom Bradley International Terminal alerted police at 9:47 p.m. on Monday, when monitors behind ticketing counters read "An emergency has been declared in the terminal. Please evacuate."
Police swarmed the terminal looking for whoever was responsible. At first, operations officials thought the message was the work of a hacker, but discovered an airline contractor accidentally overrode the flight display system, LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles told the LA Times.
"After the mistake was discovered, airport staff removed the message from all the monitors by 9:54 p.m.," Castles wrote in an email.
The contractor was "programming airline check-in information into a set of monitors for a particular flight when he accidentally activated the pre-programmed emergency terminal evacuation message," Castles explained. "The airport's information technology staff will be looking at ways to ensure this accident does not happen again in the future."
Los Angeles World Airports recently completed a $737 million renovation to the LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal “to enhance service and convenience to the passengers and tenants who use the terminal.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has asked operators to replace the tail plane fixing pins with improved pins as concerns over their protective surface coating was revealed.
A few days ago, a Boeing 737 crashed off the coast of Bali when the pilot of the Lion Air flight lost control of the jet just as it was approaching the runway for landing.
It is not clear whether the tail plane pins had anything to do with the crash. All 108 people survived.
The FAA said Monday in a directive, "We are issuing this AD to prevent premature failure of the attached pins, which could cause reduced structural integrity of the horizontal stabilizer to fuselage attachment, resulting in loss of control of the airplane."
They said they were prompted to issue the inspections after "reports of an incorrect procedure used to apply the wear and corrosion protective surface coating to attach pins of the horizontal stabilizer rear spar."
The order is said to affect 1,050 planes flown by U.S. carriers. It could cost up to $10.1 million total, or $9,627 per plane.
Models include the 737-600, 737-700, 737-700C, 737-800, 737-900, and 737-900ER.
Inspections will start taking place in May but they are not predicted to interfere with flight schedules.
A week ago, Boeing finished testing a fix for a battery problem on the 787 Dreamliner which caused the battery to smolder.
It is not known what caused the battery problem, but the company has come up with a solution which includes more heat insulation and a vent that sends hot gases outside.
A pilot for Alitalia said that he saw an unmanned drone as he approached the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport at about 1:15 p.m. on Monday afternoon. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the commercial pilot’s claim of seeing the small unmanned aircraft. He says that he saw the drone when he was about four or five miles away from JFK. He was flying at an altitude of about 1,500 feet, reports The Daily News.
The website LiveATC.net has captured the radio call that the pilot made where he reports what he has seen. During the report he clearly says “We saw a drone, a drone aircraft.” The drone may have come within 200 feet of the pilot’s jet. The FAA said that the pilot was not forced to take evasive action and that he was able to land safely.
A video about the incident is below:
Source: (The Daily News)